For the month of Gay Pride (in church), it would be great if we we could simply celebrate a list of unambiguously gay popes – but we can’t. This is not because they don’t exist (there were undoubtedly several popes whom we know had physical relationships with men), but because of the inadequacies of language, and the weakness of the historical record over something so deeply personal, especially among the clergy. Both of these difficulties are exemplified by Mark Jordan’s use of the phrase, “Papal Sodomites”. In medieval terms, a “sodomite” was one of utmost abuse, which meant far more than just the modern “homosexual”. It could also include, bestiality, or heresy, or withcraft, and (in England, after the Reformation) “popery”, which is deeply ironic, and hence treason.
Some at least of the charges against the popes will have been without foundation. We just don’t know, and probably never will, which of these charges were simply malicious. On the other hand, the historical facts around some of the others are clear.
The papacy generally revealed in practice a relatively tolerant attitude to sexual “deviation.” Within the Papal States, penalties against sodomy were enforced less rigorously than in many other territories. By the fifteenth century, Rome had developed a vibrant subculture of men who enjoyed sexual relationships with other men. (The situation of women in Rome is less well documented.)Thus, throughout the early modern era, men found refuge in Rome from the harsh punishment of sodomy, which was more “routine” in northern Europe and which was also vigorously prosecuted in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although popes at least acquiesced in the prosecutions under the Inquisition, the persecution of sodomites probably resulted from local animus and zeal rather than from directives from Rome. Protestant reformers consistently condemned papal toleration of homosexual acts.
- Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century
- Duffy, Eamonn: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes
- Fletcher, Lynne Y: The First Gay Pope and Other Records
- Quattrocchi, Angelo: The Pope is Not Gay!
- Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
- Duffy, Eamonn: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Third Edition
- Fletcher, Lynne Y: First Gay Pope
- Quattrocchi, Angelo: The Pope Is Not Gay!
- Gay Popes: John XII (955 – 964)
- Gay Popes: Benedict IX (1012 – 1056)
- Gay Popes: Paul II (1464 – 1471) and His Embarrassing Death
- Gay Popes: Sixtus IV (1471 – 1484)
- Gay Popes: Julius II (1503 – 1513)
- Gay Popes: Leo X (1513 – 1521)
- Gay Popes: Julius III (1550 – 1555)
- Cardinal Francesco Maria de’ Medici, Gay Cardinal?
- Cardinal Borghese (1576 – 1633), Patron ofHomoerotc Art
- Cardinal Carlo Carafa, gay cardinal.
- Gay Cardinals: Francesco Maria Del Monte (1549 – 1627)
- Gay Cardinals: Francis Joseph Spellman
- St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop and homoerotic poet
- St Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop and Homoerotic Poet
- Gay Bishops: Ralph of Tours (Promiscuos, Gay) and John of Orleans
- Anselm of Canterbury: Gay Bishop, Gay Protector. 21/04